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Supreme Court refuses to defend religious liberty for pharmacists

Last week, I was at a meeting hosted by The Alliance Defending Freedom. There I was introduced to a Christian family who was ordered by the State of Washington to sell abortion-inducing drugs in their family-owned pharmacy (see their story above). This family and two other pharmacists believe that killing unborn children is wrong, and so they sued the state for relief.

In 2012, a federal court ruled that the law violated the free exercise clause of the first amendment and that the law was “riddled with exemptions for secular conduct, but contain no such exemptions for identical religiously-motivated conduct.”

In 2015, however, a federal appeals court overruled and said that the pharmacists and family must violate their consciences in order to do business in Washington State. The family and the pharmacists appealed their case to the Supreme Court.

This morning, the Supreme Court denied to hear their appeal. It means that the lower court ruling stands and that they cannot do business in Washington State unless they are willing to violate their religious beliefs.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent against the Supreme Court’s decision, and he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. You need to read this excerpt from the dissent:

“This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern. The Stormans family owns Ralph’s Thriftway, a local grocery store and pharmacy in Olympia, Washington. Devout Christians, the Stormans seek to run their business in accordance with their religious beliefs…. Ralph’s has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.” [underline mine]

The fortunes of religious liberty are waning in our country right now. The notion has been diminishing in the popular consciousness, and now the Supreme Court is declining to defend our first freedom as well. Alito is right, this is a “cause for great concern.” If the state can ignore the first amendment and coerce these Christians to violate their conscience, then the state can do anything.

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I’m a single-issue voter on multiple issues, and so are you.

Election 2016 has presented evangelical voters with a real conundrum. There is no clearly pro-life candidate in this race. We know where the presumptive Democratic nominee stands. And even though the presumptive GOP nominee professes to be pro-life, we have good reasons to doubt that claim. He praises Planned Parenthood, supports the “health” exception, and names his pro-abortion rights sister as the kind of judge that would make a good Supreme Court appointment.

Still, many evangelicals who met with Trump this week in New York are making a “single-issue” calculation, and it goes like this. We know what kind of justices we would get with a Clinton presidency. There’s a chance that we might get some good ones with Trump. Ergo, despite his questionable character and pro-life credentials, single-issue pro-life voters should support him.

But that argument is not persuasive if you understand what single-issue voting really is. Single-issue voting is not the idea that being right on any single issue qualifies a candidate for office. Single-issue voting is the idea that being wrong on a single issue may disqualify a candidate from office. In this latter sense, every voter is potentially a single-issue voter. Unless you have no moral or political principles at all, then you must be a single-issue voter in this sense. The question is simply what single issue rises to that level of importance to you.

For example, no one would say that a candidate is qualified for office simply because he opposes legal slavery. But of course everyone would say that a candidate would be disqualified if he supported legal slavery. No matter how attractive that candidate might otherwise be, if he wanted to resurrect chattel slavery in the United States he would be disqualified on that single issue alone. That is single-issue voting. 

Pro-life voters have traditionally been single-issue voters in that sense. It’s not that being pro-life qualifies anyone for office. It’s that being wrong on the issue ought to disqualify a candidate. Evangelical Trump supporters are arguing that this single-issue certainly disqualifies the Democratic nominee but that there may be a chance it has not disqualified the GOP nominee. At first blush, it’s a compelling argument. What’s wrong with it?

This whole calculus is based on the premise that single-issue voting can only be about one single issue. This is simply a category mistake. I am a single-issue voter on the abortion issue. But I’m also a single-issue voter on wife-beating, slavery, war-crimes, and a host of other issues. Any candidate who supports wife-beating, slavery, war-crimes is barking up the wrong tree if they think they will have my support. They will never have it. Ever. Why? Because I’m a single-issue voter, and I’m willing to bet that every person reading these words is as well. Again, the question is simply what issues are that important to you.

So how does this reasoning appy to the choices before us in 2016? There is no question that the Democratic nominee is disqualified on the basis of the single issue of abortion. The GOP nominee may be as well. But even if we were to grant for the sake of argument that he were not disqualified on the basis of his abortion views, he is disqualified on a number of other single issues. His pledge to direct our miliatry to commmit war crimes, his fomenting of mob-violence at political rallies, his appeal to racism, and a host of other character flaws are all single issues, any one of which by themselves would be disqualifying.

That is why the most common argument in favor of Trump–at least the one I’m hearing from evangelicals–isn’t compelling to me. And it shouldn’t be to them either.

30

Albert Mohler discusses Trump and character in public leadership

Albert Mohler says that if he were to endorse Trump, he would have to apologize to President Clinton for everything he said about character and public leadership during the 1990’s. This is a good word. Mohler is not going to endorse any candidate, but it is clear where he stands on the Trump candidacy. Download here or listen below.

1

Donald Trump announces new religious advisory board

RNS reports that Donald Trump has named a new religious advisory board. The full list of board members is as follows:

• Michele Bachmann — Former Congresswoman

• A.R. Bernard — Senior Pastor and CEO, Christian Cultural Center

• Mark Burns — Pastor, Harvest Praise and Worship Center

• Tim Clinton — President, American Association of Christian Counselors

• Kenneth and Gloria Copeland — Founders, Kenneth Copeland Ministries

• James Dobson — Author, Psychologist and Host, “My Family Talk”

• Jerry Falwell Jr. — President, Liberty University

• Ronnie Floyd — Senior Pastor, Cross Church

• Jentezen Franklin — Senior Pastor, Free Chapel

• Jack Graham — Senior Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church

• Harry Jackson — Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church

• Robert Jeffress — Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas

• David Jeremiah — Senior Pastor, Shadow Mountain Community Church

• Richard Land — President, Southern Evangelical Seminary

• James MacDonald — Founder and Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel

• Johnnie Moore — Author, President of The KAIROS Company

• Robert Morris — Senior Pastor, Gateway Church

• Tom Mullins — Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship

• Ralph Reed — Founder, Faith and Freedom Coalition

• James Robison — Founder, Life OUTREACH International

• Tony Suarez — Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

• Jay Strack — President, Student Leadership University

• Paula White — Senior Pastor, New Destiny Christian Center

• Tom Winters — Attorney, Winters and King, Inc.

• Sealy Yates — Attorney, Yates and Yates

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Hugh Hewitt in high dudgeon

I don’ usually do this, but I have to pass on to you today’s episode of the Hugh Hewitt Show. He is my favorite political analyst/talking head, and he was hilarious today. He spoke like a man who has just experienced a tent-revival-style conversion. There was repentance (“I was wrong”), zeal, and a resolve to make converts to his cause.

Until today, he has been copiously above the fray vis-à-vis the Trump candidacy. He has said that he’s “Switzerland”—committed to neutrality in the Republican primary and open to voting for GOP nominee even if it’s Trump. He has never been #NeverTrump, and has been arguing against #NeverTrump as wrong-headed. Continue Reading →

A Resolution against Requiring Women to Register for the Draft and to Serve in Combat Units

The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting will be in St. Louis next week, and it is my hope that the messengers will have the opportunity to make a statement against requiring women to serve in combat units. I have proposed a resolution with wording that derives greatly from the The Danvers Statement and from a 1998 resolution on the same topic. The committee can decline from bringing this resolution to the floor for a vote. They can recommend an edited version. Or they can recommend it as is. We’ll see next week. Until then, you can read my proposal below. Continue Reading →

Nuts. David French says he will not run for president.

Well, nuts. David French has just announced that he is not going to run for president after all. When word leaked last week that he was Bill Kristol’s mystery candidate, there was an initial thrill at the prospect of having an honorable alternative to enter the race. But I have to say that French’s explanation for not running is wise. I can’t say that I disagree with any of it. It is too bad that we live in a country in which you have to be fabulously wealthy to consider a run at this point. But that is the reality. French explains: Continue Reading →

Who is David French? And why is he running?

Yesterday, news leaked that David French is Bill Kristol’s mystery candidate. He has not yet declared himself a candidate, but he is Kristol’s man. French is a veteran of the Iraq war, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and a constitutional lawyer. He’s the author of seven books, an adoptive father, and a stalwart conservative. He is not a career politician. He also happens to be one of my favorite writers—which is why I link to his National Review articles continuously.

In 2014, French delivered a commencement speech for a Christian home school group. The address says everything you need to know about why French would volunteer for the meat grinder of a presidential campaign. And make no mistake. That is what this campaign is going to be for him and his family. You should read the whole thing, but this excerpt says it all: Continue Reading →

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